Little Havana Walking Tour: a Miami Neighborhood Travel Guide
Let's talk Little Havana, Miami. I have a lot of travel destinations on my bucket list like I'm sure many of you do, and Cuba is definitely one of them. The bright colors of Cuba that I see from fellow travel bloggers on IG are seriously calling my name. However with budgets and life getting in the way, who knows when I'll actually get there. That's why I made a point to instead cross Little Havana off of my list when I stopped in Miami. BONUS: no passport required! I also HAD TO taste a legitimate Cuban sandwich. Over the last couple of years, my boyfriend has taught me to love the perfectly grilled sandwiches, to the point where we bought our own panini press to make them at home. There was no way I was going to pass up the chance to try one in a city where Cuban culture is abundant from so many immigrants coming to Miami over the second half of the 20th century. From tasty bites to baked goods to color and music, the stretch of the Little Havana neighborhood is one of those perfect afternoon day trips from Miami. Easily accessible by foot, read ahead to see all the best stops for a self-guided Little Havana walking tour.
Make your way through Miami to 8th Street also known as Calle Ocho, the heart of Little Havana. You’ll quickly realize you’re no longer drenched in the stereotypical Miami vibes of South Beach glam. Instead, you’ll feel like you’ve hopped on a plane out of the United States and have been welcomed into a uniquely vibrant community straight from Cuba. Those colors on IG I was talking about? Oh yeah, they’re here, in the form of 6 ft tall, 70 pound fiberglass roosters, or gallos, on the street corners. You also find even more color at every turn from the the street art, murals, and painted tiles all around. These art pieces depict visuals of Cuban influences including music, food and images of Havana.
Check Out the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame
Take a look by your feet as you walk through Little Havana and you may realize you’re stepping on bronze stars in the pavement. This is the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame. Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it features over 24 stars lining the sidewalks honoring Cuban celebrities such as Gloria Estefan and those who have had a positive impact on Cuban culture while also having ties to South Florida.
Spend Time in Domino Park Little Havana
My favorite nook in Little Havana is Máximo Gómez Park, more affectionately known as Domino Park Little Havana. This small area is filled with table after table of dapper old men playing competitive dominoes throughout the day while bantering back and forth about Cuba, politics, neighborhood gossip and everything in between, all while their domino tiles click and clack around them. It reminds me so much of older men playing chess in downtown Chicago or in New York's Central Park. It's proof that although Little Havana has become a popular stop for guided bus tours packed with tourists, it's still just a local neighborhood made up of hard working people who are proud of their roots and heritage.
Explore the Best Restaurants in Little Havana
Continue your Little Havana walking tour by grabbing a bite to eat. One of the best parts about the constant sunshine of Florida is that almost all the restaurants are al fresco, with the fronts wide open to the sidewalks allowing the breeze to naturally float along the tables and chairs. Live music is a staple of Little Havana and you’ll often feel like you’re being personally serenaded as you stroll down the street. Many of the restaurants have bands playing throughout the day with more music options into the evening.
For lunch we stopped at El Pub, an unassuming diner that had, you guessed it, Cuban sandwiches. These perfectly grilled, pressed sandwiches with pork, turkey, mustard and pickles have become comfort food for me and Little Havana didn't disappoint. With shoestring fries and a glass of Sangria, it was a perfect summer lunch as we people-watched from our table. Everyone seems to know each other in Little Havana and even on a Monday afternoon the sidewalks were busy with locals greeting each other with a smile and enjoying the Miami sunshine.
Later in the afternoon we knew we had to grab some ice cream from the Yelp reviews we saw for the Azucar Ice Cream Company. The amount of flavors this shop serves up is beyond impressive. I splurged for their signature flavor, Abuela Maria: vanilla ice cream mixed with guava, swirls of cream cheese and Cuban cookies. It was heavenly. Their seasonal flavors shouldn't be passed up either with concoctions such as Olive Oil, Orange Zest & Dark Chocolate or Margarita Sorbet.
Another stop that should be on your Little Havana walking tour itinerary is the art-Deco Tower Theater. As the most iconic building in the neighborhood and much of Miami, this theater served as a place for Cuban immigrants to watch movies throughout the decades in English, but with Spanish subtitles so they could more easily pick up the language and acclimate to life in America. Also ensure you check out Cuban Tobacco Cigar Co. for answers to anything and everything you could have ever wanted to know about cigars and cigar-rolling.
Overall, Little Havana lived up to its charm. It may not be that large of a neighborhood but it has a heart the size of all of Cuba continuing traditions of Cuban coffee, delicious food, cigar rolling, music and fun. It's a great stop to make while traveling through Miami and is only a short drive from another one of my favorite Miami neighborhoods, Wynwood. We can’t all travel to every country in the world (although that’s the dream right??) but we can at least get close to those experiences in such amazing cultural communities like Little Havana, Miami.